next to nothing

Greetings and salutations, everyone; yes, once again it is I, Mani the purebred border collie, filling in for the guy I live with, and here to bring you the latest news from our garden. You may remember me from such posts as “Nothing Again Nothing”, among so many, many others.

Here I am in a characteristically horticultural pose.The guy I live with was planting some lavenders in the North Border, which is what this is. If it looks sort of empty, that’s because, so someone says, a certain puppy (not sure who that might be) wiped out most of the plants here when he first showed up at the house and discovered squirrels. Squirrels are interesting and need to be chased, if you didn’t know.

This is an extremely hot and dry part of the yard, with awful soil, and so we’re not sure why the aster ‘Andenken an Alma Pötschke’ (to be super precise about the name) looks so good. But it does. Usually asters like this get all wilty when it’s too dry for them.

Here’s a picture, similar to the hundred others just like it that have been posted here, of the view to the west, looking down the path. You can see the aster, flowering away. In the lower right are the leaves of the ‘Grace’ smokebush he planted there some years ago. It’s had a rough life, but maybe the roots have finally left the root ball and grown into the surrounding soil. It’s been incredibly dry here in the last few weeks, but even so, the guy I live with decided to plant all the lavenders, and then water them a lot. I understand there’s been quite a bit of watering going on while I’ve been at Day Care, playing with my friends.

You can see that the roots of the lavenders did leave the root balls, using the “super genius” method. It’s been so dry here that the guy I live with said he wouldn’t mind if it snowed. I know, right? Ordinarily he would never say something like that, but that’s how dry it’s been. And extremely dark, with clouds almost all the time. It isn’t going to snow, because even though in the past it snowed in September pretty often, things seem to have changed. It might not snow, or rain, for that matter, until some time in December. Rain would be nice, though.

Speaking of roots …. You may have noticed that I’ve been gone for rather a long time. Longer than usual. It wasn’t because of the carpet stains; I mean, the guy I live with didn’t have to be taken away to a home because of the stains. He bought a couple of commercial carpet cleaning sprays and tried one. It worked pretty well, so that only a little work is left to do, but it had such an awful smell to it that it almost drove the guy I live with right up the wall. The guy I live with detests almost all chemical fragrances and this one, I guess, was really icky.

No, it wasn’t that. The sewer drain got clogged up. The guy I live with called a plumber, but had to wait a whole day, which was okay, really, because he’s always liked this company, but he almost went completely crazy worrying about it. The sewer line was snaked and it was tree roots blocking the line. There aren’t any trees, like big shade trees, in the front yard, so the guy I live with suspected that it was the tree across the street which was the culprit. Or a tree growing somewhere else. That can happen, I guess.

And then, remember all the smoke in the air? The air cleared up, so some of his neighbors decided it would be a good time to …..burn wood. It’s legal to burn wood, like in a fire pit, but then the smoke comes into our house, because of the fans cooling off the house, and the guy I live with gets annoyed. (That’s about the biggest understatement I can make.)

I fear, because of that, he might be turning into a cranky senior citizen. He does have a cane, which was his dad’s, and which he refers to as an “ashplant” (like in Joyce, you know), which he could go around shaking at people, yelling that his right to cool off his house outweighs the right to burn wood (it does, by the way) and stuff like that, but instead we just stay up, and hope the smoke has cleared by the time we go to bed. I of course go to bed much earlier, but I participate in the bedtime ritual by being awakened, going outside, and then coming back in, for bed. I get all tucked in, in my Upstairs Fort, with my Lamb Chop. It’s really cozy there.

I tore up my Lamb Chop toy the other evening (I couldn’t help myself), and so I got a brand new one that evening. I hope there’s an endless supply of Lamb Chops….

Sometimes, with all the darkness and no rain, the guy I live with gets into a brown study. Probably most people do. I know I do, sometimes. (Not very often.) If you’ve read Sherlock Holmes, you know about brown studies. This is the book he reads, when that happens. I don’t think pictures of this have been posted before.He says, and I guess I have to take his word for it, that in some ways this is one of the most remarkable books written by this author. It’s about trees, in the landscape (as I guess you can tell), but not about “the landscape” as we Americans would think of it, but rather how to create a pleasant picture, or view, in a planted landscape, which I guess most of them in Britain are.

The photographs are utterly delightful. (The guy I live with says the printing by Jonathan Cape has the most color photographs.) This is the kind of book where you sort of skim over it, then re-read parts, then other parts, and stare at the photographs, and the compare the before and after pictures, over and over.

This was an ex-library book that he bought online. It had a special owner, previously. A very special owner indeed.Well, I guess that’s all. To recap, the guy I live with has been reading, very slowly, doing some gardening, thinking about plumbing, wood smoke, and trees in a planted landscape like we don’t have here. And it would be nice if we had some rain. Mist and drizzle would be really nice, but those things hardly ever happen here. They used to, I’m told, but not any more.

I’ll leave you with another horticulturally-oriented picture of me.

Until next time, then.


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18 Responses to next to nothing

  1. lifecameos says:

    Mani you seem to find your part in the garden quite relaxing.

  2. Barb K says:

    Oh! Henry Mitchell! He was so wonderful and rather a curmudgeon himself so TGYLW is following a great tradition. I think cranky and opinionated people make the best garden writers by far even if I don’t agree with them. I live in fear of my own sewer pipe since it was mistakenly put on the neighbor’s property. Lots of roots all over. Most of us in Oregon are somewhat tired of woodsmoke too. Say, whatever happened to the talk about a companion for you?

    • paridevita says:

      Pretty cool, huh? The guy I live with bought that a few years ago for his best friend, and when she got it, she called and said, “Maybe you want this back?” So they traded copies. I should probably say that on our morning walk we smelled smoke, too. It was coming from the firefighter training center which is not very far from us. So that’s one reason for smoke. We don’t have much smoke from forest fires right now, fortunately. I guess they said at Day Care that I might be happier as an only dog. I think I am, right now. I love playing with my Day Care buddies but I do like a lot of attention. Chess was the same way. After his buddy Slipper died he really got into being an only dog. So it looks like I’ll get my way. For now.

  3. Nell says:

    O. M. G.
    My favorite garden writer, period. How wonderful for the guy you live with to have this. Maybe he’ll read you some HM, who loved dogs as much as he loved garden plants. Like some people you know.

    • paridevita says:

      Pretty darn cool, huh? I heard there was an article in Horticulture magazine years ago showing pictures of his garden; in particular the water-lily pool, which didn’t look anything like it was described in his books. (It was beautiful.)

      • Nell says:

        Will have to poke around in the library’s magazine archives!
        My serendipitous brush with horticultural greatness is a copy of Dilys Davies’ Alliums bought used online. It turned out to have belonged to Roy Davidson, and has a typed letter from Davies to RD inside. I’ve thought of sending it to Panayoti Kelaidis or someone in the NARGS for an auction or the like. DD is still gardening and speaking in the UK, I think.

      • paridevita says:

        Things like that are cool. The guy I live gave away a lot of his rock gardening books, for the local chapter to sell, just recently, but he still has Roy’s copy of his lewisia book with handwritten corrections in it. That wasn’t purchased online, though. He was here, years ago, just before he passed away. The guy I live with said that Flurry, the first border collie who lived here, kept dropping tennis balls at his feet.

  4. Wow, Henry Mitchell! I love him! What a treasure to find that book.

  5. Love some serendipity anyway I can get it. We used to buy books at a store which had bought the library of a local garden writer we liked and sorta knew. But coming across a Henry Mitchell — woot! Worth another woot is we have that very book by dear GST, and I shall go in search forthwith. We know people who knew him, and all I shall say is “now there is a curmudgeon and a crank of a very high order.” We were at a native plant seminar ALL DAY today – overwhelmingly great speakers – and as I stood contemplating plants I wished to purchase I thought of the super-genius method of preplanting (as I perhaps mistakenly understand the technique). Most every speaker thought roots growing down is an excellent situation, and growing out and widely too. They were most critical of ants, which I don’t know if you have any of, Mani. The pathway you show first is in a very pretty bit of the garden. Your characteristically horticultural pose seems to me a show of, um, contemplation mixed with contrition for the lavenders of yesterday, although I do not understand why that should be.

    • paridevita says:

      Oh, we have ants. The guy I live with said they spread seeds of cyclamen, snowdrops, and crocus. So he’s very much pro-ant. I looked at some red ants on my walk this morning. Some were carrying things out of their home. The funny thing was that there were black ants very close to the red ants, and the guy I live with said that when he was a kid (I couldn’t believe they had ants back then, but I guess they did) he’d watch red ants and black ants fight. The super-genius method is simply re-potting the plants into larger containers, with sand and stuff surrounding the root ball, so that the roots will leave the root ball. It’s easier for roots to extract water from the surrounding mixture of sand and perlite (say) than whatever the roots were growing in when the plants were purchased. So the roots do actually grow out of the root ball, very eagerly. Then the plants can be planted without worrying that the root ball will dry out, because the roots are already headed in the right direction. It seems to work. The guy I live with said it would work even better if it rained. (It rained last night, in a few places around here, but, of course, not right here.)

  6. Tracy says:

    Does TGYLW have any copies of his books for sale? I’d rather buy from him than used on Amazon. I like Mitchell but Allen Lacy and Eleanor Perenyi are my favorites

  7. Pam M says:

    Really miss Henry Mitchell in the Washington Post….I lived in that area when he wrote the Metro column….what was it called? Anyway I have a book of his collected writings from that column. I shall have to find and re-read it!

    • paridevita says:

      According to the obituary in the Washington Post, the gardening column was “Earthman”, and there was also a column “Any Day”, which began later.
      The guy I live with said that he tried onion sandwiches after reading Henry Mitchell. That was the second time he tried them; the first was after reading Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River.” I’m not allowed to eat onions, so I guess everything is fine.

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